Leon Minnie, product manager: production systems at Konica Minolta South Africa, addresses Colour management in this article.

An endless number of colours surround us in our everyday lives, influencing our taste in food, what we buy and even giving us clues to another person’s health. Despite the fact that it has such a profound effect on us, our knowledge of colour and its control is often inadequate, leading to a variety of problems in deciding product colour or in business transactions involving colour.

Since judgment is often performed according to a persons perception or impression, it is impossible for everyone to control colour accurately using common, uniform standards. Even if they are looking at the same object, different people will draw upon diverse references and experiences and express the exact same colour in different words – verbal expression of colour is very complicated and difficult to do.

So, how do we express a particular colour precisely, describe that colour to another person and have that person correctly reproduce the colour we perceive? How can colour communication between all fields of industry and devices be performed smoothly? This is where colour management has become a critical practice.

Colour management can be defined as the process of controlling colour as it moves between devices – from input (cameras and scanners) to output (screens, projectors and printers). Essentially, it’s the practice of precisely knowing the colour characteristics for every device in the imaging chain and utilising them to better control colour reproduction. This is achieved through a combination of two key processes – calibration, where a device is set to a known, repeatable state, and profiling, where an accurate description of that state is created in order to translate image colours into one common colour standard.

As a relatively new field of science, especially to the South African market, colour management cannot be studied at local institutions and is generally learnt “in the field”. Fortunately though, more recently, quality tools and techniques have become available and pricing has become more reasonable as knowledge has increased.

The benefits of colour management are many. Not only do organisations benefit from less wastage and fewer reprints, they can also rely on the same colours to be produced every time, elevating them from their opposition. Furthermore, colour management can provide colour consistency across different media – from billboards and presentations to brochures – and printing processes, and helps improve the reproduction of skin tones, half tones and detail in shadowed areas. Another advantage is that digital equipment with the appropriate colour management solution can also be used for cost effective proofing or to do short pre-runs of jobs that require only 10 or 20 copies of the actual high quantity litho job.

By removing human intervention from the colour reproduction process, organisations will save both productivity and time, as no manual “tweaking” is needed.

There are a number of colour management solutions, with the most basic being the use of a spectrophotometer, a device used to measure light and the abortion thereof to determine the concentration of colour. There are many more advanced colour management solutions, including hardware and software that can be used to integrate into commercial workflows giving print providers, big or small, confidence on colour repeatability.

Konica Minolta South Africa understands how colour critical the printing industry is and employs three of only sixteen internationally qualified colour specialists.